Government puts £50m into using AI for disease diagnosis

Written by Sam Trendall on 2 September 2020 in News

Money will fund expansion of work at three centres

Credit: Liz West/CC BY 2.0

The government has put £50m into expanding the use of artificial intelligence to diagnose cancer and other diseases.

The funding will be spread across three ‘Centres of Excellence’ in AI imaging and digital pathology that were established in 2018 in Leeds, Coventry, and London. The centres will invest in upgrades to AI and pathology tools that the government claims will benefit up to 26.5 million patients across 38 trusts that will now be given access to the centres’ services.

Increasing the use of technology will allow for quicker and more accurate diagnoses of cancer and other serious diseases, the government indicated. This will help assist its ambition of detecting three in four cases of cancer at an early stage by 2028.

Money provided to the National Pathology Imaging Centre in Leeds will support the facility in “creating a world-leading centre” which will bring together expertise from nine NHS trusts, eight universities, and nine private-sector companies.

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The London Medical Imaging and Artificial Intelligence Centre for Value-Based Healthcare will be given funding to support its use of AI to process medical images and clinical data. The cash boost will enable the centre to “automate expensive and time-consuming manual reporting”.

The use of “NHS pathology data to drive economic growth in health-related AI” will be the focus of the additional money dedicated to Coventry’s Pathology Image Data Lake for Analytics, Knowledge and Education.

The government hopes that the funding will allow the centres to “partner with new and innovative British SMEs”. The improvement to the use of AI also “supports the UK’s long-term response to Covid-19”, it added.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: “Technology is a force for good in our fight against the deadliest diseases – it can transform and save lives through faster diagnosis, free up clinicians to spend time with their patients and make every pound in the NHS go further. I am determined we do all we can to save lives by spotting cancer sooner. Bringing the benefits of artificial intelligence to the frontline of our health service with this funding is another step in that mission. We can support doctors to improve the care we provide and make Britain a world-leader in this field.

“The NHS is open and I urge anyone who suspects they have symptoms to book an appointment with their GP as soon as possible to benefit from our excellent diagnostics and treatments.”

Professor Reza Razavi, director of the London Medical Imaging and AI Centre for Value-Based Healthcare, added: “Artificial intelligence technology provides significant opportunities to improve diagnostics and therapies as well as reduce administrative costs. With machine learning, we can use existing data to help clinicians better predict when disease will occur, diagnosing and treating it earlier, and personalising treatments, which will be less resource-intensive and provides better health outcomes for our patients.”


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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